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A princess is walking along the road when she hears a frog calling out to her: “Princess, princess. Kiss me and I will turn into a handsome musician.” She picks the frog up and puts it in her pocket.

“Princess,” complains the frog, “why don’t you kiss me and I’ll turn into a handsome musician?” “Believe me,” says the princess, “you’ll make much more money as a talking frog.”

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I read an post in a blog today that I felt compelled to respond to. Yet another person going on about how musicians don’t deserve to be paid for anything. I agree on some of the writer’s points, namely that current copyright laws are anachronistic given the advances in technology. The writer suggests that things return to the pre-classical era when the only people who had access to music and art were the rich. Yeah…very 21st century!

Here’s my response which actually I’m quite pleased with:

Hi there, interesting post. In many ways I agree with you too. However, I have just completed my tax return and it made for sobering reading.

I am a musician. I perform, teach and run workshops. I am trying to set up my own group which plays little known 18th century music. I work pretty much all hours of the day, not only at the coalface, but practicing and studying to maintain my skills, collecting resources and researching the 18th century music that we play. Having completed my accounts, I realised that, all in all I had made a not very handsome profit of £1,113 last year from music.

Your post implied that musicians (and other creative types) simply sit around waiting for the money from copyright royalties to roll in. As a musician, I can honestly say that to get paid performance opportunities when you have yet to establish yourself is VERY difficult (and nigh on impossible if you play original music, as I used to do.) The reason? People expect musicians to give their work for free on the live scene too, or even worse, pay for the privilege.

I have this argument time and time again with people that are not musicians. They cannot seem to understand that musicians are paid (when they get paid) appallingly given the time and effort required to perform to a goodl standard. The fees that people are prepared to pay in no way reflect the years of study and practice. It has taken me, personally, 4/5 years of hard, hard work to get to the stage where I can take my first tentative steps to singing classical music for a paying audience. That’s about the same as a doctor or lawyer. And should I continue singing, I will need to pay for regular coaching sessions throughout my career.

If a musician/artist is the position of collecting royalties in the first place, that position has most likely been won through years of sheer hard graft and living on the poverty line with no guarantee of anything to show for it. Don’t they deserve something for that? There is a place for tribute and covers bands, but do we really want all musicians to spend all of their time doing that to earn money, rather than writing new material?

In the past, new music only got written because it was funded by the aristocracy. Do we want that situation again, where professional musicians reflect the agenda of a social elite? Back in the day, the rich were the only people with access to art, and public concert halls only came into being when the publishing industry took off, in the 18th century.

Bodies such as the Arts Council were supposed to fill that gap, but again, will only fund the activities that suit their agenda. And they can have their funding cut on a whim if a government decides to bankroll an overpriced sports day (I am UK based in case you hadn’t guessed). I’m not a luddite, I love the internet, and I use it to promote our work. Much of our stuff is up there with a creative commons license. I don’t want to criminalise people for listening to us.

I agree that current business models of copyright have broken, and it would take a better person than myself to suggest an alternative, however, society does need to value the contribution that creatives make, there needs to be some mechanism by which we can make a living from our efforts someday and possible make up for the lean years. I didn’t get into music to make wads of cash, but as I said before, I do work very hard and for very little, because I have focused my time on producing something new and different. Surely, the prospect of a decent living at some point is not too much to ask for?

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Just reading through a couple of my latest posts, perhaps I should have called this blog “Abi’s rant blog” I must sound as though I moan all the time. But I don’t, no really. I am generally a very happy person. I live a very nice life. it’s just that…it could be nicer. Not just for me, for lots of other people. Take housing. I get a big bee in my bonnet about the current state of things, and no doubt I will write an enormous rant about that someday. It makes me so angry, the fact that a house has now become a commodity, an investment, rather than a somewhat necessary place to live.

In fact I own my own house, so I shouldn’t get so cross about it. (And before you get really sniffy with me, I only own it because my parents died when most of my friends were looking for their first full time job.) But that doesn’t stop me from being absolutely livid when I see what it is dong to our society. People’s parents shouldn’t have to die before they get a chance to get on the housing ladder.

Well, that’s just an example. Virginia Woolf wrote about the importance of a room of one’s own, ie, your own space and financial security, to creative thought. I may own my house, but in the normal day-to-day I’m only better off by a couple of thousand a year in purely financial terms. I live on a shoestring and I like it that way. But it’s more than that. The fact that I own my own place allows me the luxury of space to think about the world around me and see how it could be better. It allows me a certain mental freedom. And I’m painfully aware of just how lucky I am. Maybe that’s the point. Making a whole generation keep their noses to the grindstone, propping up the economy and benefitting the taxman and the banks, to buy the overpriced necessity repackaged as a luxury item, they’re hardly going to have time for challenging the status quo, are they?

But most of the time I’m a very happy bunny.

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So Labour lost in Crewe. Good. I’m glad. Perhaps they will make some changes now so that we don’t get another Tory government come the next election. I cannot believe how stupid and arrogant our ruling party has been. I’ll admit it. I know sod all about politics, but a day or so after last years budget, I went to my union in fury. I said that the abolishing the 10p tax band was an attack on the lowest paid, and that it would be a disaster. Why did it take people older, wiser and more experienced than me a year to come to the same conclusion?

I’m actually quite angry about the whole tax issue. I have no problem paying tax. I pay my taxes so that vulnerable people are not left destitute. So that everyone has opportunities and choices. I DO NOT pay my taxes pay for rich people’s lavish lifestyle. I DO NOT pay taxes to give to millionaire PFI bosses. Or to be wasted by quangos whose only concern is to create well paid jobs for themselves.

Or to subsidise businesses that don’t see why they should pay their employees a decent living wage. So much for the bloody tax credits. I’m sick of New Labour trumpeting these like they’re a gift from St Francis of Assissi. What’s wrong with raising the minimum wage to a decent level? Why should people go out to work for less? Why make the low-paid have to negotiate a complex and flawed system to beg for their own money back again? If employers cannot write a business plan without factoring in proper wages for all of their employees, perhaps they ummmm….shouldn’t be running a business?

And as for that appalling, patronising, childish “toff” campaign. The Tory canditate for Crewe is not from blue-blooded landed gentry stock. He is the son of cobblers made good. Being attacked by NuLab for his parents running a successful business reminds me of the idea of a former council estate tenant having his car keyed by the envious when he comes to visit his old friends. So Labour doesn’t want to encourage aspiration then? That’s the problem. Mixed messages. I have no idea what the Labour party stands for. They pay lip service to working people, then go scurrying to the mega-rich like feudal serfs.

I could go on all night, but it’s late. And I get the feeling that no matter what I say, it won’t make any difference.

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After hours of staring at an intimidating MS Word screen , I finally knocked my A-level music essay into shape. I don’t know why I felt so daunted, I like writing essays once I get into it. Anyway, it’s now been handed in for further feedback and I think I may finally have it sussed.

Rehearsed with Rebecca, who will be accompanying me for the A-level recital next week. She’s a very unusual creature, a black Romanian classical pianist, can’t be many of those about! You go girl! I made a total loon of myself by fluffing one of the final phrases in Virgam Vertutis, when I’ve sung it loads of times, and try as I might I just couldn’t sort it out. How embarrassing.

Am now settling down to spend the rest of the evening playing final fantasy 12 with Gary. I must finish that fleece rabbit soon as Dan and Becky had their baby, Martha Grace, last night

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